Join us this afternoon in the Greenberg Room as we hear a colloquium from Jacob Eisenstein (Georgia Tech) today at 3:30pm. A department social will follow.
Variation and Change in Online Writing
Online writing is an increasingly ubiquitous mode for informal, phatic communication, but the implications of this shift for the relationship between writing and speech are still contested. While some point to the rise of a new “netspeak” dialect, quantitative analysis suggests a picture that is more complex: online writing reproduces lexical and phonetic variation from spoken language, while simultaneously hosting an impressive array of apparently novel orthographic variables. I will present computational statistical techniques for identifying variation in online writing, and will discuss the geographical, social, and linguistic properties of several types of variables. Next, I will consider the diachronic perspective, where large-scale longitudinal data enable robust inferences about patterns of linguistic influence across thousands of lexical variables. I conclude with ongoing work on whether and how orthographic variables can maintain their social and geographical distinctiveness in the face of pressure towards leveling in an ever more densely-connected online world.
The department welcomes Bill Croft (University of New Mexico), who will be speaking at 3:30pm today, February 6 in the Greenberg room. All are welcome, with a social to follow. The title and abstract are given below.
Force-dynamic image schemas: between verb and argument structure construction
There has been a long debate over the relative semantic contribution of verbs and argument structure constructions to the structure of the event expressed by a clause, in particular semantic structures described as “transfer”, “emission”, “application” and so on. In this talk, I will argue that these semantic structures are force-dynamic image schemas that are only partly constrained by verb meaning and argument structure construction. Verbs have a force-dynamic potential that allows them to be construed in more than one force-dynamic image schema. Argument structure constructions constrain but do not determine the force-dynamic structure of the event expressed by the verb occurring in the construction. The mapping between verb roots and force-dynamic image schemas varies across languages, but additional research is required to determine what constraints there are on possible mappings.
Roger Levy (UC San Diego) will give a joint Linguistics/Psychology colloquium Wednesday 1/28 at 3:45PM in Jordan Hall Room 041 (420-041). There will be a reception in the Jordan Hall Lounge immediately afterward.
Expectation-based language comprehension and production
Using language to communicate is central to what makes us human. Elucidating the knowledge, expectations, and cognitive resources that allow us to communicate so effectively is one of the most fundamental problems in the study of mind. For much of the contemporary history of psychology and linguistics, motivated by the ideas of figures including Chomsky, Miller, and Fodor, work on this problem has conceptualized language processing as centrally about modular structure-building operations and the memory resources required to carry them out. Here I describe an alternative approach that conceptualizes language processing as centrally about rational, goal-driven inference and action. First, I outline a state-of-the-art theory of expectation-based incremental language understanding, in which comprehenders integrate diverse information sources from preceding context to guide interpretation of current input. This theory unifies three key, seemingly disparate topics in the domain of language understanding — ambiguity resolution, prediction, and syntactic complexity effects — and finds broad empirical support in data from both controlled experiments and naturalistic language understanding. Second, I describe several apparent empirical puzzles for this theory that ultimately lead us to revisit one of the implicit foundational assumptions in all theories of language understanding: that of modularity between the processes of word recognition and of inter-word, utterance-level comprehension. I generalize the expectation-based theory to a fully bidirectional, interactive theory of word recognition and utterance comprehension, and show how this generalized theory solves the apparent puzzles and leads to a range of new, empirically verified predictions. Finally, I touch briefly on the consequences of this view for language production: why do speakers choose to structure their utterances the way they do? The expectation-based theory novelly predicts that speakers use the options afforded them by their native language to come as close as possible to a uniform distribution of information content throughout their utterance. We confirm this prediction through statistical analysis of speaker choices regarding optional word omission in naturalistic speech.